Rice Queen is a new informal restaurant (self described as an Asian diner) on the floor below the Panama Dining Room on Smith St. I dropped in to have a look and liked the sound of the menu so much I ate that evening, rather than waiting to dine with friends as had been my intention. Rice Queen is promising and the food is good, but it needs to make some improvements.

ricequeen1 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

The photos above and below show the sunny front room overlooking Smith St. I love green and so the colours in this room are very pleasing to me. Rice Queen has a short menu with daily specials and offers only counter service. You order and pay at the bar, take a number and your meal is brought out like in a pub.

ricequeen2 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

Below is the main dining space, with red, blue and yellow dominant. I ordered my meal at the bar and the price came to $49. I knew this was not right and mentally calculated it to be $43.50. I went through the menu with the man serving me and I was right. I hate being overcharged and given he was using an electronic register I don’t understand how it could be wrong.

ricequeen3 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

I started the evening with a Wang Chung Tonight – cherry juice, vodka, mint and lime ($14). Yummy!

ricequeen4 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

For entree I ordered the dumplings, served with a soy and ginger dipping sauce ($7.50). They’re moist and delicious. After eating the dumplings I realised that I had forgotten to order rice with my meal and went back to the bar to rectify this. $1 for a bowl of steamed rice is extremely reasonable.

ricequeen5 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

The western plains pork with soy, tamarind and 5 spice begged to be ordered ($14). It was excellent with the most amazing eggplant also in the pot with bok choy.

ricequeen6 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

As a contrast I also ordered the Japanese style cold spinach with soy and sesame, and it was very tangy and generous sized ($8).

ricequeen7 dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

The service was very slow (nearly 30 minutes for the dumplings to arrive and about 20 after that for the mains to arrive) and it was far from busy. They’ve only been open for about 3 weeks and are yet to be discovered by many locals. I plan to go back in a few weeks to try some more of the great food and expect by then to see that the service problems have been overcome.

The Bimbo Deluxe business model (very cheap but good food to draw the crowd in, who then spend lots of money on drinks) should work for Rice Queen and I believe that within a few weeks it will be the next trendy happening place to be on Smith St (particularly if you find it impossible to get into Gigibaba). With bar, lounge and dining spaces Rice Queen is flexible and affordable.

dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

10 thoughts on “dinner at Rice Queen on Smith St

  • 24 March 2009 at 12:40 am

    “Rice Queen”?

    Good god, did they actually think that is a good name?

    In Gay circles a Rice Queen is an older gay Anglo who takes up with younger Asian men. The implication is that he can’t get an Anglo fella.

    Sort of on a par with the Mail Order Bride idea, but explicitly racist by placing gay Asians many rungs down from Anglo gays in some farcical racial hierarchy.

    • 24 March 2009 at 1:12 am

      Hi Pol, it’s been a while since I’ve heard from you. I had a vague idea there was this kind of meaning, but I thought it was more a gender or preference neutral idea based on cultural imperialism where it is assumed that Asian people are submissive. I was not aware of the implication that the Anglo man could not get another Anglo man, but rather that he specifically chose an Asian man who would be submissive in the stereotypical mail order bride way. Is it some kind of misplaced joke about how much Anglos like Asian food?

  • 14 April 2009 at 12:59 pm

    We had dinner at Rice Queen Sat 11/04/2009. The positives: great space, good food, well priced. The negatives: slow service (it was almost empty so no excuses there), confused service (not sure what table food was to go to and table number on our table was different to the table number the food was ordered under, which probable accounts for the food not ariving at the same time or at all) and the choice of name for the restuarant, it is offensive and derogatory and is a puzzling choice in an area that has a fairly large population of resident and gay people.

    But by far the biggest negative was the smell of raw sewerage in the female toilets. Enough to make you lose the dinner you just ate or were in the process of eating? Absolutely. Most of us at dinner are nurses so unpleasant smells are something that we have become accustomed to but nothing could prepare us for this one.

    My companians, except for the only male with us, all agreed that it was a very unpleasant experience. They were reluctant to approach management about the issue but I spoke with the manager and the chef.

    They were aware of the problem (there was no way they could not be as the female staff used the same toilets) and said that the smell was only there when the Panama Dining Room (same owners) upstairs was also open and that they had spent over $4,000 dollars on plumbers who told them there was no problem!

    I advised them that despite the food being good, our experience had raied a number of questions namely
    1. It makes us wonder how clean the kitchen is.
    2. It makes us wonder why, in the 3 weeks they have been open and knowing the problem existed, why they did not close the toilets and advise people to go upstairs to Panama Dining Room until the problem was fixed instead of allowing their customers to be exposed to it. Shows a lack of respect for their customers.
    3. Every female customer who has had the misfortune to use the female toilets will no doubt have the lingering memory of the smell of raw sewerage whenever they think of dinner at Rice Queen.

    As we are all Fitzroy residents, it is a shame because the food is good and it is somewhere we would have gone back to. Unfortunately, we are unable to remove the unpleasant association of Rice Queen with raw sewerage so we won’t be going back.

    Let’s hope they sort it out before they find they have no customers at all.

    • 14 April 2009 at 1:16 pm

      Great comments Arkay – the toilet problem is a definite confidence killer. In her review, Claire from Melbourne Gastronome also mentions very slow service. That should be easy to fix. Plumbing may be difficult to fix but easy to manage – as you say, send people upstairs until the problem is fixed. Or even close until it is fixed. Finding a restaurant closed is less disappointing than the experiences you describe. As for the name, as I wrote in the politics of business names, choosing a clever name is difficult. It needs to be memorable without being offensive, and I think they thought being controversial would be funny and got it wrong.

  • 10 May 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I am afraid that my first (and possibly last) experience at RQ was not a positive one. I met a former work colleague who had I not seen for some time and I thought it would be fun to visit a new place in good old Fitzroy. I have no problems with the name; it is tongue in cheek and I think it is sort of fun (I guess I should ‘locate’ myself: I am gay and I know exactly what rice queen means). The space is great, love the walls, love the windows, love the atmosphere. My friend ordered a glass of wine and it was definitely off, tasting worse than vinegar. A new bottle was opened and all was good (but the vinegary taste lingered for a little while). My main – soupy noodles with mince pork – tasted of utter nothing. My companion’s fish cakes came with no dip (“we are still getting used to the menu” – oh, that’s ok then) and even with the dip they tasted of (almost) nothing. The food is ridiculously cheap but I would rather pay a few dollars more and get some taste with it. Nice wallpaper, though.

  • 10 May 2009 at 11:05 pm

    (soupy noodles with mince pork – tasted of utter nothing….)

    hi carlo, wondering what dish you ordered?

    been a couple of times and thought the flavours were well done!

    • 10 May 2009 at 11:21 pm

      I thought the food was good when I went – the slow service was the problem that most people have commented on.

  • 12 May 2009 at 11:32 am

    david..it was the Shanghai style spag: fresh shanghai noodles topped with mince pork cooked with brown bean sauce..it appearss like I made a bad choice…

  • 26 November 2009 at 5:07 pm

    so, offensive name, slow service and the loos really smell vs
    it’s cheap and they have nice wallpaper

    might head to ozone at Knocks City

  • 30 August 2010 at 10:13 pm

    food=really average and seasonably price asian fusion food.
    service=very unhelpful on the phone. too cool when we arrived at the venue.
    decoration=top notch. great for a first date or group gathering.


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